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Johannes Kemper

Johannes Kemper was born July 10, 1610 in Wiedenbrück, Westphalia, Germany the son of Jodokus Kemper a constable in Wiedenbrück and his wife Margareta Florcke. He attended primary school in Lemgo and high school in Soest then followed studies in Rostock, on the Baltic Sea and Rintein, a small town about half way between Wiedenbrück and Hannover. At the age of 27 he became the choirmaster and lector at the Latin school in Lemgo. After two years further training in Rostock he received his masters degree. He then became "pastor primarius" (first Pastor) of St. Nicholas' Lutheran Church (Nikolaikirche) in Lemgo and also Ephorus (overseer) at the Gymnasium (secondary school). Lemgo is located about 40 kilometers northwest of Wiedenbrück. Johannes took his position at St. Nicholas in 1644 and he married Christine Drepper shortly afterwards. Christine was the daughter of Joachim Drepper who was a former minister at St. Nicholas. Christine and Johannes had three sons:
 
Joachim (1646-1706)
Engelbert (1651-1716)
Johann (1655-1703)
St. Nicholas' Church  

These three sons were probably the first to transform the family name from the plain "Kemper" which is derived from Kamp which means "Field" into "Kæmpfer" which means "Fighter". Variations in spelling from that time include Kæmpffer, Kämpfer, Kampffer, Kempfer and Kempffer.

Christine Drepper died about 1654 and Johannes remarried. His new wife was Adelheid Pöpplemann, the 20 year old daughter of a prominent Herford family. Herford is a town about 15 kilometers north of Lemgo. Adelheid was related to the famous architech Matthäus Daniel Pöppelmann, the state architect in Dresden in the 1680's, who is noted for his design of the Zwinger in Dresden and the Elbe Bridge which is one of the most attractive bridges in Europe. Adelheid and Johannes had nine children, four of which died at an early age, three sons and two daughters remained alive:

Johann Andreas (1658-1743)
Johann Henrich (?-1715/18)
Johann Daniel (?-1709)
Maria Magdalena (1669-1711)
Anna Catharina (1673-1749)

Johannes in his capacity as pastor at St Nicholas, was involved in the waves of witch-hunts and trials which hit Lemgo. As a pastor of the church he was expected to be involved in the whole trial process. The ministers spoke of the character of the accused during trial and were present to confirm their admission of guilt which was usually tourtured from the accused. They prepared the convicted "witches" for death and accompanied them to their executions. These persecutions of witches reached their height between 1580 and 1660, when witch trials became almost universal throughout western Europe. Geographically, the center of witch-burning lay in Germany, Austria, and Switzerland, but few areas were left untouched by it. No one knows the total number of victims. In southwestern Germany alone, however, more than 3,000 witches were executed between 1560 and 1680. Johannes' own brother-in-law Andreas Koch, married to Anna Elizabeth Pöpplemann, the sister of his second wife, was executed as a witch on June 2, 1666. Another brother-in-law Bernard Grabbe, married to another sister of his wife, Lucia Sophia Pöpplemann, was also executed on March 26, 1667. Both men were beheaded with a sword and then their bodies were burned. They became a victims of these witch trials because they had the nerve to question the whole witch trial process, taking the view that many innocent people were being accused and executed. Johannes refused to take part in the witch trials which started in 1675. He had already refused to cooperate some years earlier with the mayor Hermann Cothmann in these persecutions and was an outspoken opponent of the whole process. As a result of this he was no longer allowed to speak to the public from the pulpit.

The family left Lemgo and moved to Steinhof in the Lemgo-Lieme area, to a farm with manorial character. It was in Lieme that Johannes died on August 31, 1682. In 1694 the family farm was sold by Adelheid to her stepson Engelbert who had just returned from his adventures in Japan.